The Mobile Literacy Arts Bus (MLAB) is an artist-run, renovated recreational vehicle that exists as a flexible space open to community members’ proposals for alternative educational and cultural programming.

MLAB is the collaborative effort of the 2007-2008 Social Sculpture class at Syracuse University, comprised of 10 art and architecture students and lead by artist and Director of Community Initiatives in the Visual Arts of Syracuse University, Marion Wilson. Our mission was to transform a used, 1984 Recreational Vehicle Bus into a Mobile Literacy and Arts Bus for use by the Syracuse City School District and the greater Syracuse Community. MLAB serves as a physical manifestation of Syracuse University’s Scholarship in Action initiative, by pairing University resources with community needs in an attempt to address the staggering drop out rates in the Syracuse City School District High Schools. Through the School of Education at Syracuse University, incredible curricula that bridge photography, poetry and literacy currently exist within the public schools-- however due to a crisis of space, the schools don't always have the space or resources to house it. MLAB is this space. The bus serves as a mobile classroom, digital photo lab, gallery space, and community center. As a team, we did it all: demolition, design, and construction.

MLAB is made possible from the generous support of the School of Education at Syracuse University and Entitiative.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Gluing Process

One additional thing to think about is that it takes about one hour for two people to glue one eight foot floor section. So rather than planning to work for four hours in a row and waiting for glue to dry - I would suggest, coming to glue for an hour (or two if you glue two sections), leave and come back a few hours later (3-6hours) unclamp them, stack them in the hall there, and glue up another section. Basically whenever you have an hour free and a partner stop by and glue up a section. Leave a note as to the time that you glued so the next person won't unclamp too soon.

Lots of varieties of wood now. All of the wood that is wrapped in duct tape in the bins in the undergrad studios are ready for use. Clean brushes and pans and leave there when you are finished.
Great work today.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

how to make your very own scrap wood floor . . . .

as requested, here is the quick and easy process:

step 1. arrange on the floor 24' or 26' long sections (I recommend adding a couple inches to the finished length) of aggregate wood, approx. 3" in width. note: strips look best if you alternate adjacent wood types

step 2. divide the 24' or 26' long section into approx. three 8' lengths. (for 26' long sections, may alternate to two 8' + one 10', or other arrangement deemed acceptable by zach)

step 3. place one 8' length onto the "gluing jig" (aka. the 20' long c-channel + osb screwed to 2x4s). note: be sure to keep aggregate wood pattern in the same order for all three 8' lengths.

step 4. make sure one end flush.

step 5. start gluing. probably best to work in pairs for gluing, since wood glue can set quickly. note: don't be cheap with the glue, more is better.

step 6. once all strips are glued together, place the extra 3" osb strip on top and the extra c-channel against the side. don't skip this step, the osb/channel is needed to distribute evenly and keep boards flush.

step 7. vertically clamp the freshly glued wood aggregate between the two 3" osb strips. alternate with horizonally clamping the freshly glued wood aggregate between the two steel channels.

step 8. finished with one 8' length? move onto the next two.
*enjoy the dumbed down process diagram, not sure why the wood glue looks blue?

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

another step closer to liminality

Liminality (from the Latin word līmen, meaning "a threshold"[1]) is the quality of the second stage of a ritual in the theories of Arnold van Gennep, Victor Turner, and others. In these theories, a ritual, especially a rite of passage, involves some change to the participants, especially their social status.[2]

The liminal state is characterized by ambiguity, openness, and indeterminacy. One's sense of identity dissolves to some extent, bringing about disorientation. Liminality is a period of transition where normal limits to thought, self-understanding, and behavior are relaxed - a situation which can lead to new perspectives.

We made a lot of progress over the charrette since Matt arrived last Wednesday evening. He was very impressed with our project and thankful for the opportunity to contribute to it. He is even considering coming back to help some more. From Thursday mornign to Monday morning we worked nonstop designing, driving around getting materials, grinding, cutting, welding and fabricating.

If you haven't been by the bust yet, we have a really beautiful/powerful/awesome/accessible threshold into our M-LAB. If you are at the bus, be careful to step through and over the door frame to enter. We don't want to rack the door any until we get the front and back panels on it. You can swing the door open and step on the door jam all you want.

Its amazing how something as simple as offsetting the hinge on a door completely changes the experience, or the semiotics, of "doorness". The next step is to work out a latch/lock that also refuses the signification of "door". Why go through all this trouble designing and fabricating these ideas? Because, these details contribute to the ambiguity and indeterminacy of form and function which will foster the liminal spatial properties of our classroom. Just like the unexpected aggregate wood floor, puzzle benches, cloud ceiling and cabinet wall.

We're not out of the woods yet though. There is still about 6 hours of fabrication work left on the door... I mean threshold.

Matt is on his way back to CT with the oak panels which will be milled on the large format CNC machine and sent back up here next week or so.

Thanks Marion for helping us work out access to the tools and shop over the weekend and Roslyn for the trip to home depot... we broke the rest of those bits that night and had to use the ones you picked up.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

and let's not forget Steve Ginsburg

Possibly against his will, with all that time we are spending in the woodshop, Steve Ginsburg has gotten into the act as well. Remember never never upset Steve, and freshman comes first and he loves sweets.

David Clayton is Back on the Team

David Clayton rejoins us to work on fabrication and work closely with Zach.

Photos of Donors and Agregate Wood shopping

A Very Special Thank you

Our design brought us back out into the community. Working to create an aggregate wood floor meant we needed to collect a lot of wood scraps. Marion and Zach took on this job with ferociousness (help from Jessica and Roslyn too) and before you know it we were inside the Stickley Factory. A special thank you to Andrea Audi who has a special interest in the arts and literacy for making generous amounts of cherry and oak to us. They had more wood than we even knew what to do with. Thank you also to National Grid, Melanie Littlejohn and Jim Conway of the Forestry Department for generous amounts of OSB and to the Redhouse for getting us started with basement scraps.

We have spent the last two weekends laminating strips together to make the studs for below 24" of the walls of the bus. When the wall panels are pulled away to reveal the cushions/writing tablets you will see these gorgeous aggregate wood studs. We are now beginning work on the floor and altho there is some confusion about 24foot strip and half inch wood "boards" bundled into piles, Samantha, Yun Pei, Jessica, Arjan, and Julia are working hard to figure it out.

Committed to making bus accessible to all from the very beginning got Nicolette thinking creatively about solutions and a trip to the Chancellors office by the whole group is going to make an aluminum ramp possible. A special thank you to Chancellor Cantor for her continued enthusiasm for this project!

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Artists talk tomorrow

Remember to join us for Matt's artist talk tomorrow at 1:45 in room 022 in Comart.

Is everyone clear on the wooden floor team?
What was the decision on the lighting?
If I have time this weekend I am going to start experimenting with ceiling/bubble samples. What depth are we looking for and approximately what size - do we know yet?

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

(lengthy) Lighting Update . . .

So I spent the morning at Edward Joy Elec; but before I get into the different lighting options, I'm gonna mention that the everyone there is in love with our project. Just while browsing I had 3 separate employees come up and ask me about this "cool bus" they just heard about. I actually took Vince's rendering of the interior to help explain what we needed and it ended up helping a lot. So keep that in mind

down to basics:
1 The quick estimate is that for the space we have, we'd need about 500-1000 watts. In other words between 5 and 10, 100 watt lightbulbs, make sense? If anyone is interested in helping to test this out, let me know.

2 We need to decide if we want this lighting to more "general" lighting or "accent" lighting. Accent lighting would fit the system we've designed best. However, accent lighting isn't optimal for classroom space. Is this important? The bus will be primarly used during the day, so do we want to wash out the space with light or not? please post ur option on this. thanks

3 With limited space at the ceiling, it will be hard to have any type of recessed lighting. In addition, to the lighting fixture, we'd need about 6" of space for the can surrounding it. There are some smaller options with Halogen lights (issues with that is high level of heat created).

4 Any type of lighting from behind the arcylic plastic = ambient glow is pretty much out of the question. I know we nixed that last week, but my convo today basically reassured that fact.

5 Our initial idea about low voltage flourscent lights will price out at $750, this is a rough estimate - Ed Joy has a varitey of options which would alter the price. I didn't look very much into it, since I know quite a few people do not want florescent lighting. However, at this point seems to be our best option for a "general" lighting.

6 All the other options I looked at are for accent lighting (meaning under cabinet, cove lighting, track lighting). If you have any ideas for general lighting options other than florescent, please let me know.

7 Top recommendation is for Kichler Linear Lighting (low voltage, strip lighting system). Estimate total price at $1100. Very vestile system, I'll bring more info tomorrow. Basically if we decide after installation that more light is needed, we purchase more of the little bulbs and plug them straight into the track (we need to consider this in purchasing the transformer tho). The lights can be clustered or spread out, and can be changed by anyone.

8 Halogen track lighting. Estimate price (without transformer, etc) $400. Basic track lighting u'd see in residential bathrooms. Issue with heat, need to be careful about distance of materials from lighting, fixture and track is much larger.

9 LED Lighting (strip and rope). Initially I thought this would be our best options. However, I was informed that LED is actually very bad for lighting a space (better uses in signs and x-mas lighting, where your looking at the light) Ed Joy doesn't carry any examples, but gave me a manufactuer they like if we want to pursue that direction.

10 sorry for this lengthy post, just thought I should throw all the ideas out there for everyone.

Updated Workplan and Tomorrow

This is what I can imagine that needs to be covered still and can be done tomorrow. I am sending this out now so people can respond in advance.

I am in the process of hiring David Clayton to work directly with Zach and me in the interim while Zach is recovering. This will keep the work flow moving and Zach involved as the lead on wood fabrication - at least conceptually. The rest of the class will be able to continue as they have creating the aggregate wood pieces and both can work with me. David Clayton has the necessary insurance and permission to work in the woodshop so this should be a seamless transition.

Tomorrow we can continue with putting up the walls below 24inches with the two David's in the RV with Zach leading the work activity. Nicolette, Vince, Marco can assist.

We need three or four people to unload the cart of wood from Stickley and if it is dry enough cut it down to 8ft pieces and store somewhere. Samantha, Jessica, Marion, Roslyn, Julia, Yun Pei

Remaining Design Issues for all: wood furniture, ceiling, accessibility.
I suggest we discuss ramp and door first as issues of accessibility. Possibility of purchasing both as we now have a budget for them.

Also need to welcome and introduce Matt. Determine his work plan for the week and who can assist him and when....

Thoughts? People can switch jobs above if they prefer.

Honorific Opportunity!

So if meeting with the Chancellor wasn't enough. We as a class have an opportunity
to apply for the Chancellor's Award for Public Engagement and Scholarship:

Syracuse University puts bold ideas in motion through Scholarship in Action - an educational approach that matches the vigorous pursuit of knowledge with the ability to make a difference in the world through community engagement. The Chancellor’s Award for Public Engagement & Scholarship (formerly known as the Chancellor’s Award for Public Service - CAPS), recognizes the committed students at Syracuse University who exemplify Scholarship in Action. This award acknowledges individual students, groups of students, residence halls, residences floors, student organizations, and academic projects or classes who invest themselves in and contribute to the public good. All faculty and staff are encouraged to nominate individual students and groups.

So Marion.... how about a nomination? I really think that we could get it. I don't think it comes with a financial package but if it did we would of course put it towards the bus!

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

So that was fun...

Hey All!

Thanks for the generous amounts of well-wishing and food-offering over the past 24 hours. I'll keep this one short and sweet, as typing with one hand sucks almost as much as trying to form complete sentences while on percoset does. Anyway, the main thing that you guys should know is that the amount of damage to my body is roughly equivalent to the amount of damage that it's strategically placed left shoulder was able to inflict on the largest non-commercial truck Chevrolet manufactures (the Silverado 3500hd). I am absurdly proud of myself.

I even got the paramedics to send me a picture of the truck to my phone before they dropped me off at the ER. I'll show it to you guys on Thursday. It's pretty intense.

That being said, considering the speeds at which the truck and I were traveling, I am really lucky that I fared as well as I did.

Attached are some pics of various bits of broken carbon fiber. Enjoy!!


Not sure if this could be of much use to us or if we even qualify but here's some information
on a local arts grant for $1,000. The grant is due Dec. 1st. (information on all grants available) (pdf file for grant application)

Monday, November 5, 2007

Wear your Bike Helmets, Please

We are terribly sad to hear that Zach was in a bad bike accident today - he is alive!!!!- but he broke his collarbone and is out of commission for awhile. The most important thing is that he gets well and I encourage you all to extend your thoughts and help to him.

We will discuss first thing on Thursday how this affects our work plan for the coming weeks - and Zach assures me that he will be in class for this discussion. Please be thinking about this the rest of you before Thursday - Zach was a our chief fabricator and we will need to strategize a bit no doubt.

We all wish Zach a speedy recovery!

Lights and HEAT!

Ahhhhh, M-LAB. We've made great progress this weekend on a number of tasks we set out for ourselves to accomplish and it feels good to be getting our hands dirty with hard work. Does anyone remember building circuits in their high school science classes? Well using those same basic principles of electricity, between David Harris and I (with a bit of help from Rosalyn on Saturday), we were able to completely rewire the RV to move the main electrical panel from the rear of the bus near the wheel well to a position just behind the driver's seat. We plan on looking at the 12 Volt electrical boxes in the coming days to decide what we want to do with them. And as our design becomes visibly constructed in the bus we will be figuring out the layout of the lighting and outlet systems in the bus.
Saturday was a pretty cold morning in Syracuse, since we're now into that season when the temperature drops and frost begins to accumulate on the windows. So, with that in mind after moving the main power source and hooking that up on our new panel we rigged up some temporary construction outlets and lighting. Which we immediately proceeded to plug a space heater into that I am sure we will all appreciate greatly as we log long hours in the RV over the upcoming cold months! Turning on that main power switch at the end of our workday Saturday we were relieved and happy to see our lights and heater start working, and it just felt so worth the effort!

Sunday, November 4, 2007


In case you missed it, we made a great deal of progress on many bus-related things this weekend. Here are some images of a mostly complete section of wall inside the RV.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

For those at Dartmouth or in other non-RV locations

Intense work has been taking place! Though I cannot speak for the work that was done on Friday, I can report on some of Saturday's activities!

So far, we've managed to rewire the RV and add some lights and outlets. David made sure to select lighting that demonstrated our sleek white look reflecting properties of liminality. We've also added a space heater for future cold hands who will be working in the space. Note on the coldness: expanding foam insulation will not expand when cold.

Later in the day we picked up quite a bit of wood from Stickley. Zach and Marion provided great entertainment for those who were able to watch them back into the sculpture driveway space with large trailer of wood in tow. After we continued making stratified floor boards. This happened to be my favorite task.

And though it may be less of a surprise, we made our ritual trip to Home Depot in order to pray to the gods of fabrication and design or to buy liquid nails and other such supplies. We now have a beautiful caulking gun that can handle our 29 oz. containers of ammunition.

Leveling of the RV also took place, I think, but as I was not directly involved in that, I'll let the real heroes post about it.

More work will be done tomorrow and it should be really exciting!

Friday, November 2, 2007

Mary Jane Jacob visit and Lecture

So in case you missed her the amazing Mary Jane Jacob was in town recently to visit us here at Syracuse University. She had a really hectic schedule, but found time to see us at the M-LAB. She was really excited about the project, so we will keep her updated.

Later on she gave a public lecture on her curatorial projects which was great. During the lecture Mary Jane gave M-LAB a big shout out, which was awesome!

If you are not familiar with Mary Jane Jacob
check out her website.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

How is Yun-Pei?

Hope he is okay!

Brief post

I also have a wood lead, some scrap wood a friend of mine collects because he hates to see it go to waste. he's willing to give us some 4' long pieces that are about 1 foot wide. I told him I'd find out if we still needed it... and so I shall. :)

He's also an art teacher in the Oswego school district and is willing to distribute some of our postcards to his middle school students. I think I could also get an art teacher friend of mine
over at a local private school to do the same. Just need more post cards!